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Editorial: 2nd. February, 2020

Editorial: 2nd. February, 2020
February 02
10:50 2020

Editorial: 2nd. February, 2020

Since the news broke two weeks ago about the trial of wealthy Armenian American Lev Dermen in the U.S. for tax evasion, there has been steady pressure generated in Belize to find out the identify of the UDP Minister accused of collecting US$25,000 a month over an extended period of 2 to 3 years, in return for a diplomatic posting in the US. Twenty-five thousand US dollars a month for 12 months amounts to Bz $600,000 a year, or more than a million dollars if the payments extended over two years.

Opposition forces say Prime Minister Dean Barrow is not doing enough to get to the bottom of the scandal which has rocked the UDP to its core, and have threatened to invoke the powers of the Supreme Court in an order of mandamus to force the Prime Minister to do more. Instead of sitting on the fence and waiting for the proof to come to him, opposition forces say, the Prime Minister should be aggressively seeking to find which member of his Cabinet accepted the bribes.

As the leader of a government which has vowed to stamp out corruption, the Prime Minister has a solemn duty to preserve and defend the integrity of his government and to root out the cancer wherever he finds it. The Opposition is operating on the assumption that the Dermen disclosures are true, and that the person named, Minister John Saldivar, is indeed the one who took the money.

This has not been proved. Mr. Saldivar, while he admits that he knew Dermen and was in touch with him from 2013 to 2015, has vigorously denied that he took any money.

But there is a trail of evidence pointing to him. There is at least one text message which names him, and it is now known that he is the minister who pushed for Dermen’s appointment as Consul in Las Vegas.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sedi Elrington has confirmed that Saldivar approached him to find out if anything could be done after the United States Department of State blocked Dermen’s appointment.

The waters around Saldivar are choppy, but so far there is no sign of a tsunami. The opposition PUP are the only ones clamoring for his head. This could quickly change, depending on what the court trial reveals in Wilmington. If the prosecution can find an electronic trail connecting Dermen payments to Saldivar, that is going to be evidence impossible to ignore.

If we begin to see a coalescence of views from the Belize Chamber of Commerce, the Belize Teachers Union, and the Church as we saw in October 2016 when there was a ground-swell of support which included an eleven day strike by the BNTU for political reform, we can expect to see a tsunami which will upset the best laid plans of mice and men.

The principal demand of those proposals for political reform was for the Government of Belize to sign the Convention of the United Nations against Corruption.

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